Port staff, board contemplate buying Jensen Boat Yard

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Barbara Marrett was a small business owner and manager of the San Juans Visitors Bureau. However, Marrett has had experience as a small business owner and is the public relations manager of the visitor’s bureau.

A roughly 100-year-old San Juan Island business may be sold to the Port of Friday Harbor.

“I know what needs to be done, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” said Jeri Ahrenius, after the Wednesday, Sept. 13 port meeting. “I want to make sure it serves boaters in the community.”

Jensen Boat Yard and Marina has been in Jeri’s family for the last century, according to her husband Mike, but the couple said that a small, private marina cannot keep up with the cost of state environmental regulations, as well as needed improvements. The port, said Jeri, has resources to cover these necessities.

Mike resigned as port commissioner at the beginning of the Sept. 13 meeting, before the remaining two commissioners evaluated buying the property. This aligns with Washington state law, according to Port Executive Director Todd Nicholson.

The available marina is about a five-minute drive southeast of the port’s current marina, which is located in the Town of Friday Harbor, near the ferry terminal. If port staff buys Jensen Boat Yard and Marina, they would maintain both entities.

Nicholson said some positives of the purchase included increasing marine maintenance operations for port tenants. He estimated that hundreds of boaters go off-island, annually, for repairs, because there is not enough space and craftsmen at island shipyards. If the port buys Jensen Boat Yard and Marina, said Nicholson, both would be increased.

“It is the perfect fit for San Juan Island and the Port of Friday Harbor,” he said.

A communal space could also be offered for island craftsmen to work on boats. This would be cheaper for craftsmen who work intermittently, rather than leasing space that is not used year round, added Nicholson.

The marina could also include places to store and repair seaplanes and it has rare, covered moorage slips, he continued.

Seaplanes are designed to land and take off on water.

Commission Chairwoman Barbara Marrett said some people use the port’s lack of seaplane storage as an incentive to buy private docks. The board also discussed possibly adding another seaplane dock to this marina, in addition to the one located at the Port of Friday Harbor.

Nicholson said a report on the purchase showed wages are the biggest expenditure, though he said they are similar to the port’s salaries and benefits.

The highest revenue is sales, he said, which would be easy to maintain in the transfer. Rather than purchasing land and building infrastructure, revenue for this business would begin at the point of sale. Sales include labor and parts for marine mechanical repair, he added.

Nicholson explained that, as a government entity, the port would not have to pay all taxes and would have access to grants to cover costs.

“It has been a historically successful business for 100 years,” added Nicholson.

Mike added that, while others are interested in the site, he and his wife would rather sell it to the port to serve the most islanders possible.

Marrett noted that one of the best parts of the shipyard is its affordability.

Commissioner Greg Hertel predicted that a private buyer would prevent the average islander from using the facilities.

“They would turn it into a private marina, with high-end condos in front of it and we’d never see it again,” he said.

Port staff will review the option in more detail and present an in-depth report at an October board meeting, which has yet to be set.

The board explained that they have 90 days to appoint a replacement for Mike. The appointee will serve the remainder of Mike’s term, until the end of 2019. Candidate filings are closed for the November election, so the position cannot be voted on until next year’s election.

Applicants must live in San Juan Island’s district 1 and be a registered voter. For questions about applying, contact the port staff at 378-2688. Mail letters of interest to the port at PO Box 889, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.

2017 General Election: Port of Friday Harbor

Barbara Marrett’s seat for district commissioner 2 is open in the Nov. 7 general election.

Marett is running for the six-year term against Keith Carver, who, according to the San Juan County Voter’s Pamphlet, is a retired mechanical engineering and lifelong boater, with no previous political experience.

Marrett, according to the voter’s guide, is a the public relations manager of the San Juans Visitors Bureau and served a port commissioner since 2005.

Staff photo/Hayley Day                                Jensen Boat Yard and Marina offers rare, covered moorage.

Staff photo/Hayley Day Jensen Boat Yard and Marina offers rare, covered moorage.